Four New Yorkers on Media & Technology

I had a chance to attend Digital Hollywood’s Advertising 2.0 confab these last two days — or at least two of the three keynotes that interested me. (I missed The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown.)

Yesterday, Business Week‘s Jon Fine took IAC’s eminently quotable CEO Barry Diller through the paces. Diller must have felt right at home. The conference was held on the ground floor of his company’s Frank Gehry-designed world headquarters opposite Chelsea Piers on New York’s far west side (photo above).

Today, I caught the spirited discussion between Bloomberg’s Andy Lack and Newser founder and Vanity Fair contributor Michael Wolff. The former wore his “Rodeo Drive” black cowboy boots, while the latter, upon close inspection, had an uncanny resemblance to Dr. Evil.

There was much to be gleaned from these tete-a-tetes, especially for those following the transformation of news production and consumption. Here are a few memorable quotes or paraphrases:

Barry Diller: Local is one of the few areas that is not yet colonized.
Barry Diller: Local is very hard to do.
Barry Diller: Citisearch has been a long siege. We’re in it for ten years, but it will come through.
Barry Diller: We’ve seen no pullback on in this economy. It’s not affected at all. Younger users aren’t as desperately serious.
Jon Fine to Barry Diller: Why didn’t you buy AOL?
Barry Diller: I guess I didn’t get it
Jon Fine to Barry Diller: Do you see a business model in Twitter?
Barry Diller: No
Barry Diller: The transference from advertising offline to online will smooth out in the next five years.
Barry Diller: The Internet is passing from its free days to paid. It’s going to be paid for. People will pay for content.
Barry Diller: The iPhone is a great example of what’s happening — specifically premium apps and the “uplifting” way they’re being paid for.
Barry Diller: Vimeo, with 15 mill uniques, now has 20K subscribers for premium storage apps.
Barry Diller: Even with the bad economy, Expedia will have $300 million in net cash flow this year. Such a tragedy?
Barry Diller: Monetization is a brainless word that should abolished.

The Andy Lack-Michael Wolff session opened with a debate on the merits of quality journalism versus citizen aggregators and regurgitators. Lack argued for The New York Times. Wolff questioned the need for newspaper reporting… and newspapers, in general.

Personally, I side with Mr. Lack in believing that trained journalists play a seminal role in the media ecosystem, let alone a democracy.

The conversation touched Mr. Lack’s tenure as president of NBC News and the importance of “screens,” especially mobile ones. Here are some outtakes from that session:

Andy Lack to Michael Wolff
: What FACTS are you going to get from the blogosphere?
Michael Wolff to Andy Lack: Is Bloomberg going to buy the New York Times?
Andy Lack: I personally would, but it’s not in Bloomberg’s DNA to buy things…we want to buy the most talented reporters wherever they are.
Michael Wolff: It [The Times] would only cost you $800 million.
Andy Lack: Not a bad deal
Michael Wolff: I started the rumor about Bloomberg’s interest in The New York Times.
Andy Lack: I don’t think there’s anything online that can do what The Times does.
Andy Lack (Pulling out his red translucent PDA): This is as important as the desktop or TV screen.
Andy Lack: Once NBC news had cable infrastructure, it became very profitable
Andy Lack: Bloomberg is a niche business, our audiences want to see the world through a business filter – across all platforms (screens)
Andy Lack to Michael Wolff: Was Murdoch’s purchase of the Wall Street Journal a good deal?
Michael Wolff: Ask whether it was the worst deal ever.
Michael Wolff: MySpace was a terrible buy for Rupert Murdoch. Now it’s a point of panic within the company.
Michael Wolff: Why would you pay for content?
Andy Lack: I would pay for “60 Minutes.” I want to get my news and info from people trained to get the facts.

I realize I didn’t capture all the worthwhile bites from these two sessions, so if you’re up for some unedited audio (of so-so quality), take a listen here:

Barry Diller-Jon Fine June 10, 2009, NYC (RT: approx. 60 minutes)

Andy Lack-Michael Wolff June 11, 2009, NYC (RT: approx 60 minutes)

(Also, catch the question to Mr. Lack from this PR person on the challenges Bloomberg TV faces.)


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